Dodgers' Erickson takes 4-hit shutout into 7th inning

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Except for starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza,
the Washington Nationals didn't get a lot of sleep before opening a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

They didn't need much.

Loaiza allowed one run in six innings for his first win, pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga singled to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh and the Nationals scored all their runs in the last three innings to beat the Dodgers 6-2 on Monday night.

Because he was starting the opener of a nine-game road trip, Loaiza was sent to Los Angeles early, arriving around noon Sunday -- some five hours before the Nationals played the New York Mets in Washington.

That game lasted nearly 3½ hours, delaying the arrival of Loaiza's teammates at their Los Angeles-area hotel until around 6 a.m. Monday.

The Nationals played as though they were in a slumber for the first six innings, getting four hits and no runs against Scott Erickson.

But suddenly, they awoke.

"Sometimes when you are tired, you play the best game because you concentrate more," Baerga said. "It was pretty unbelievable to come in at 6 in the morning. I woke up at 1."

Loaiza (1-2) gave up three hits while walking three and striking out seven before being lifted in favor of Baerga, who picked up his third hit in 16 at-bats and second RBI of the season to cap a two-run rally against Erickson.

Trailing 1-0, the Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh when Ryan Church singled, Vinny Castilla walked and Brian Schneider bunted for a hit. Cristian Guzman grounded into a force play to drive in the tying run before Baerga's liner to right drove in Castilla and chased Erickson (1-3).

"It's big. I need to show [manager] Frank [Robinson] so he can have confidence in me," Baerga said. "It's a start."

The Nationals scored twice in the eighth off rookie Steve Schmoll on two-out RBI singles by Castilla and Guzman, and Jose Guillen hit a two-out, two-run homer off Buddy Carlyle in the ninth, his seventh, to make it 6-1.

The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the sixth on a one-out double by Hee Seop Choi, an intentional walk to J.D. Drew and an RBI single by Jeff Kent.

That's all they would muster against Loaiza.

"He had all of his pitches working," Drew said. "He mixed his pitches well and kept us off-balance. When you get great pitching against you, it's tough."

Loaiza, who looked much more wide-awake than his teammates, was coming off an eight-inning outing in which he allowed four hits and two runs while striking out 11 in a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia.

"He's been pitching great in all of his starts," Castilla said. "We didn't give him run support before."

The Dodgers' second run came on a two-out homer by Milton Bradley off Jon Rauch in the ninth.

Erickson, who brought a 7.20 ERA into the game, allowed seven hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings while walking three and striking out one.

"It's tough to take any satisfaction out of it when you lose a game," he said. "The bottom line is wins and losses. We scored a run in the sixth, and the last thing you want to do is go out there and give them back a run, let alone two, and cost us the game."

Loaiza threw called third strikes past Cesar Izturis, Choi and Kent in the first -- Kent after a two-out double by Drew. The Dodgers had only two other baserunners before the sixth, both on walks.

Game notes
Washington left-hander Joey Eischen had surgery Monday in Baltimore on his broken right arm and is expected to be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks, team spokesman John Dever said. Eischen was injured in Sunday night's game against the New York Mets while trying to catch Kaz Matsui's high chopper. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list. ... Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who led Southern California to its second straight national championship last season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Dodgers third baseman Jose Valentin went 0-for-4, leaving him hitless in his last 26 at-bats. Brad Wilkerson went 0-for-5, leaving him hitless in his last 19 at-bats. ... Nationals outfielder Terrmel Sledge came out of the game in the sixth with a pulled right hamstring that will probably land him on the disabled list. He was injured going after Choi's double. ... Guzman's eighth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 10 games.